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Friday, 5 October 2018

Hiking across Corsica, coast to coast.

A last view of Corsica's west coast before we headed into the mountains 

The northerly coast-to-coast route across this rugged Mediterranean island runs from Cargese, north of Ajaccio, to Mariani, an hour's bus ride south of Bastia. It's about 90 miles long. The days varied between 6 and 12 miles, but always seemed to take up most of the hours of daylight. We have become expert in the art of dawdling, especially where there are mountain streams to bathe in, and wild fruit to pick: blackberries, walnuts, figs, chestnuts.

Chestnuts - remnants of the groves planted by the Italians some 3-400 years ago - are everywhere...

As is the arbutus - or 'strawberry' - tree: a rather gritty fruit, but it would keep you going in an emergency.

They say the best time to visit Corsica is in the spring, for the wild flowers. We were too late for that, but were delighted to find wild cyclamen (and autumn crocus) dotted around the woodlands.

While we had glorious day-time weather - bright sun and temperatures around 18-23 C (64-73 F) - the mornings were deliciously cool - enough for the occasional touch of frost. On this day (below) we'd set off from the old capital, Corte, before sun-up in order to fit in a 12-mile trek with a thousand metres of climbing, and a similar descent. Ten minutes after taking this picture we were in dazzling sunlight and breaking sweat.

Ripe sloes crusted with early morning frost
While the interior of the island appears empty, tiny villages dot the mountainsides, often tucked away in unlikely settings.

We were in some doubt, before we started, about our fitness for this hike. Corsica is known for its spectacular (i.e., challenging) terrain.

Our route lay thataway, through the pass

So we had one or two escape routes planned - there was a train out of Corte, on day 6, for example. But we seemed to grow into it. We ate like navvies in the gites d'etape where we put up most nights (bed, breakfast, dinner and a packed lunch for about 40 euros) and felt fitter by the day. Here I am, a picture of health, at the journey's end - albeit after a bucket of mussels, a carafe of red wine, a grilled fish for main course, and a wonderful Corsican tart for dessert.

Lunch beside the sea after eleven tough days.


Friday, 3 August 2018

Memories of Nebraska (2)

The passage of time

One of the things I enjoy about Nebraska is that so much of its recent history is on the surface. I took this picture on a neighbour's ranch when I was staying in a hunting lodge in Cherry County. That was 2011. I'll be interested to see whether the wagon is still holding up. I kinda doubt it.


Monday, 30 July 2018

Memories of Nebraska (1)

The Wildcat Hills. (Don't believe what they tell you:  Nebraska ain't all flat.)

I've been thinking a lot about Nebraska recently. It's coming up to 25 years since I borrowed a bike and rode across the state from east to west, and on that entire trip I never took a single photo. I was travelling light.
I'm planning to re-visit my favourite haunts next year and collect images of the many places that still live with me. In the lead-up, I'll be publishing a few of my favourite pictures from the other 15 or 16 visits I've made to the Cornhusker state. Or is it 17? I have a list somewhere....

Friday, 20 July 2018

Just a bit more about Eric Knight

I am trying hard not to go on and on about the Eric Knight story. Having been a friend and mentor to author Greg Christie for close to twenty years, I have been privy to his every discovery about this remarkable man. The cover blurb of the book ( hints at the scope of his life:

And there is a whole lot more. Read it, and find out.


Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Available at last: the incredible, rags to riches story of Eric Knight, the man who wrote Lassie - and a whole lot more.

It came out three weeks ago, but I have been too busy to post about it. After twenty years of research, during which author Greg Christie went blind and I took over the final editing, the epic story of Eric Knight has been published.

It was a privilege to be a part of the process whereby Greg unravelled this remarkable story. I was able to help him as mentor, critic and friend, finally as editor.

Throughout the process, which began in 1999, I never returned to the burgeoning manuscript without feeling yet again, in my bones, that this was one of the truly great stories to emerge from mid-twentieth century literature. (Yes, I did say literature - because there was an awful lot more to Eric Knight than the little pot-boiler he wrote about a shaggy dog; an awful lot.)

I was constantly reminded, too, that this story is important for movie historians (the lad worked in Hollywood, and detested the place), military historians (he worked hand-in-glove with FDR in striving to secure American involvement in World War II) and students of the American Dream - because he lived it, big time.

Okay, I'll shut up now and suggest that you read the book. You will NOT be disappointed.